My Brilliant Friend– The Story of A New Name – Reviewed on ZANI

Written by Matteo Sedazzari
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My Brilliant Friend - The Story of A New Name, is the follow on to HBO, RAI and TIMvision’s critically acclaimed TV Series, My Brilliant Friend, created by Italian director Saverio Costanzo, (Hungry Hearts, The Solitude of Prime Numbers) based on Elena Ferrante’s four-book series entitled the Neapolitan Novels.

The name Elena Ferrante is a pseudonym so, as a writer, she is an enigma. Her identity has been a mystery since 1992 when her debut novel Troubling Love was published. Furthermore, there is a great deal of speculation over her identity, whether she is a well-known writer, a collection of writers or even a man. Even in September 2017, the University of Padua conducted a study comprising of a team of scholars, computer scientists, philologists, and linguists to unmask Elena Ferrante, and just like another mystery, Jack the Ripper, her identity remains a secret.

My Brilliant Friend - The Story of A New Name, centers on the love and anger (not hate) friendship between two Neapolitan girls, Elena Greco (Margherita Mazzucco) and Lila Cerullo (Gaia Girace). Both actors started halfway through season one, then fully in season two. Narrated by Alba Rohrwacher, (The Miracle, Blood of My Blood), as an older Elena, now an established author, as she writes about friendship, family, her rites of passage, and life in general in a touching and thoughtful fashion.

Both girls were born towards the end of World War 2. Elena and Lila were children and young teenagers in Naples 1950s, which is the setting for season one. Season two starts as the whole world welcomes in a new decade, the sixties. This was a time for great prosperity in Italy due to manufacturing and export, so the economy was booming, giving a sense of true optimism amongst all the generations, and the younger generation was just starting to dig the swinging sixties, like Elena and Lila, who are now in their late teens.

The buoyancy of the decade and the vibrancy of Naples in the sixties is captured on a cinematic epic level by Costanzo, as I believe he is paying homage to some of the great Italian directors of the sixties, like Luchino Visconti, Vittorio De Sica, and Federico Fellini, whom with a camera and their cameramen, painted a moving and interesting canvass to the backdrop of the central characters and plot in My Brilliant Friend - The Story of A New Name. As Elena and Lila stroll around their neighbourhood, the residents' bomb about on their Lambrettas and Vespas, the elder community gather outside the grocery store or markets, whilst the dapper dressed younger folk get up to mischief, each one of them with their own story to tell, and Elena and Lila are just a dab of paint on this mesmerising and captivating rich landscape.

As My Brilliant Friend - The Story of A New Name is about Elena recalling her past, director Costanzo empathises this motion, by having the feel of a cine camera super 8 at the opening credits. A pastiche of the key characters and plots, filmed on an amateur level by a friend or family, as if you are watching a home movie in a living room on a pull-up screen, with a noisy projector in the background, as there is no sound. Costanzo replaced this rather annoying hum with that of a haunting piano, adding further to the magic of My Brilliant Friend.

As the pleasant settings and opening subside, Elena and Lila take centre stage. Elena is pretty and clever, yet socially awkward and shy, whilst Lila is striking, oozing with confidence, yet deep down she is insecure and jealous of Elena, who grows stronger as she grows older. For Lila is in a loveless and brutal marriage, yearning to escape, whilst Elena is at the start of self-discovery, failing, yet picking herself up from each harsh lesson learned.

As Elena and Lila are local girls from known families, they both mix with the underbelly of Naples, yet the crime aspect is kept to a minimum, as this story is about the complexity of friendship, a friend from your childhood, that will always leave a lasting memory, sometimes good, sometimes bad, but you will never forget them. Furthermore, it explores the family dynamics, how they can be supportive, and loving, yet a misplaced word over the dinner table can result in an argument, even exile.

My Brilliant Friend The Story of A New Name 4

My Brilliant Friend - The Story of A New Name is not so much a slow burner, as it is a thought-provoking drama from the onset that asks questions about relationships and humanity. The viewer is drawn to the characters as you feel their pain, their loves, and happiness. This arises due to the talent of the director, the crew, the actors, like Margherita Mazzucco and Gaia Girace, who both look certain to have a long successful acting career ahead of them, as I was surprised to learn that My Brilliant Friend is both their acting debuts, as they equally gave a strong and emotional performance, yet there was no weak link in the cast, they gave it their all. My Brilliant Friend - The Story of A New Name makes the viewer reflective about their own past, and how best they could use it to move forward and enjoy the present.

My Brilliant Friend: The Story of a New Name is out now on DVD & digital.

My Brilliant Friend Offical Site 

Read 3384 times Last modified on Saturday, 07 November 2020 16:47
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Matteo Sedazzari

Matteo Sedazzari

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